Dual retirement marks end of an era for Island Singers

Long time Island Singers Director Dorothy Anstice, front left, and accompanist Holly Scott, front right, both retired from the group this past Monday night following their final performance with the Island Singers in Mindemoya.

MANITOULIN—The Island Singers choral group is noted for its high standards and fine vocal offerings, often tackling works that would cause other volunteer choirs to quail. The venerable choir is now facing a daunting task in the coming months, however, as both long time director Dorothy Anstice of Tehkummah and accompanist Holly Scott have announced that they will retire in tandem.

“It has been one of the biggest thrills for me over the years,” said Ms. Anstice of her 28 years of directing the choir. “It has been a wonderful opportunity.”

That is a sentiment shared equally by Ms. Scott, who originally joined the choir at Ms. Anstice’s behest, three years after the director took on the job. “It has been a wonderfully uplifting experience,” she said.

The musical duo decided to retire together, much as they began a quarter of a century ago (although Ms. Anstice was with the choir three years earlier), citing the intricate relationship that must exist between director and accompanist as part of the motivation for going out the door together. But neither is completely closing the door; they both hope to return to the fold in a different capacity in the future.

“I would like to sing,” said Ms. Anstice, who said that she had originally joined the Island Singers with that goal in mind. Ms. Scott also expressed an interest in singing with the choir.

When Ms. Anstice first began with the choir, they were between accompanists as well. Ms. Anstice sought out and recruited Ms. Scott, a decision that she has never regretted. “She has been wonderful to work with. Ms. Anstice had considerable musical training, having studied music at the University of Guelph, where she met her husband Jim (who was pursuing a degree in agriculture). Ms. Scott also has impressive credentials, although she obtained the highest standing in piano with the Royal Conservatory and a masters in music from the University of California while raising four children with husband Dale Scott.

The ability to take the course by correspondence was an important consideration for Ms. Scott on where she chose to study in those pre-Internet days. Thanks to an instructor at Laurentian University, she was able to complete her studies without having to travel a great distance to complete the coursework.

The Internet has greatly enhanced the work of seeking out works for the choir to perform. “It is still a great deal of work,” admitted Ms. Anstice.

Ms. Scott described the collaboration between herself and Ms. Anstice as “being almost like a dance partner” and that they had “developed a keen sense of how each other thought.” It was that mutual understanding that Ms. Scott largely credited for their success and friendship and why they “got along so well.” But it is that intimate correlation of thought and approach that made the idea of adapting to a new director less than palatable, not that a new director would not be great in their own right, but after 25 years of collaboration, it could never be the same.

For her part Ms. Anstice lauded Ms. Scott’s focus and professional approach to the works. “The thing about Holly is that she is so attentive and musically efficient,” she said. That focus and attention to detail resulted in there being no wasted time during rehearsals, an important factor when working with 22 dedicated volunteers.

The Island Singers have provided Ms. Scott with an incredible range of musical experiences and opportunities, she noted. “What other community choir would have an opportunity to work with the The Elmer Iseler Singers (a very well regarded professional chamber choir based in Toronto)?” she asked. “That in itself was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Although she is retiring from the Island Singers’ fold, Ms. Scott will be continuing her work with the Missionary Church Choir in Mindemoya.